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What are some tips for preparing for a housing case on my own?

What is Housing Court?  In Ohio, three courts have divisions that specialize in housing-related issues:  Cleveland, Toledo, and Franklin County.  These courts were created to allow judges to develop expertise in these areas of law and use a problem-solving approach to cases.  In other cities, the municipal court typically hears cases related to housing issues.

What types of cases are heard in Housing Court?  The courts hear civil and criminal cases related to real property.  The civil cases include landlord tenant matters, like evictions, rent deposits, and actions to compel repairs.  The criminal cases involve the failure to maintain property, and include building, housing, health, fire and zoning code violations.

What should you know about going to Housing Court on your own?

You are not required to have an attorney to appear in Housing Court (unless you are appearing on behalf of a company you own).  If you are in Court on a criminal case you may be entitled to a court-appointed attorney.  Ask the Judge about your right to counsel when you appear for a criminal case.

  • Read your court papers carefully!  They will tell you when and where you are to appear, and whether you need to file anything in writing with the Court.
  • Look at the Court’s website.  Most websites post basic information, including local rules, and have a list of “frequently asked questions.”
  • Read the rules.  A court’s local rules tell you how individual courts handle cases.  Also, all parties must follow the Ohio Rules of Civil Procedure, whether they are represented by an attorney or not.
  • Evictions are summary proceedings.  This means that cases move quickly, and usually are heard and decided at the first hearing.  In Cleveland, if you are ordered to move, you may have as few as seven days to do so!  If you have special circumstances you would like the Court to consider, bring related paperwork to the hearing.
  • Consider mediation.  The Cleveland Housing Court now offers community mediation, in which court staff  meet with landlords and tenants in their neighborhoods to try and resolve problems and avoid future lawsuits.  For more information, please contact the Court at 216-664-4295.  In other communities, check with the municipal court to find out if mediation is available.
  • Questions?  Many organizations offer help to tenants.  Call 2-1-1 for resources in your community.  In Cleveland, see a Housing Specialist for information about court procedure and landlord-tenant law, Monday through Friday, from 8:00AM - 3:30PM, on the 13th floor of the Justice Center.  The Specialists are not attorneys, and cannot represent you, but can answer general questions.


This article was written by Cleveland Housing Court Senior Staff Attorney Jessica M. Weymouth and appeared in The Alert: Volume 30, Issue 2. Click here to read a full PDF of this issue!

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